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Great pictures. Thanks for this posting.
In the mid 1920s the New Delancey was part of the M & S circuit, which changed its name to the Belle Theater Circuit sometime during the 1930s (same CEO’s).
In the mid 1920s the Florence Theater was operated by the M & S Chain. Jacobs was probably one of the partners in this extended network, so was Rosenzweig. There was no Yiddish vaudeville theater on this location in 1911. We would expect an ethnically mixed audience indeed but the owners were Jewish and they advertised for this theater in the Yiddish press.
By the way, Yiddish vaudeville did extend well beyond Houston Street, actually most of the Yiddish music halls were in the area below East Houston and north of East Broadway.
This theater was built by the M & S chain. It was known as the Hollywood Theater right from the opening. The M & S chain also owned the Commodore Theater before it was taken over by Loew’s (probably the same deal).
Thanks for this information. It means that they added a balcony at some point because the theater didn’t have that when it was built in 1914.
Can you remember how the theater looked inside? Did it still have an open roof construction?
The building I have in mind is a two story yellow brick building with orange brick stripes. A few years ago, there still was a large sign that read “Bernstein.” (I have a photograph of 1998 or so). At the time, the building was used for storage by a Chinese company.
The third was the Essex Street Theater at 133 Essex, which is listed under Palace Theater (133-135 Essex). There was also a nickel-and-dime theater at 159 Rivington Street, a former Yiddish music hall.
In 1910 a fourth movie house opened its doors at the corner of Essex and Rivington streets: the 276-seat Metropolitan Theater at 134 Essex Street. The place had a bad start — the floor crashed on the opening day — but it survived well into the 1910s.
Just checked a court case against Steiner dating of 1936. It lists all the shareholders of the Greater M & S Circuit, Inc.
The large stockholders (2500+) are Louis Schneider,Elias Mayer, Jacob Borodkin (& family), Max Cohen, and LB Appleton.
One Abraham C. Mayer had 100 shares, the same amount was in the hands of the Estate of Ch. Mayer. So C. Mayer may have been a family member involved in the day-to-day operation of the New Law Theater.
The Waco Theater opened in May 1908 by the World Amusement Company (hence it’s name). It was a 300-seat storefront nickelodeon. In the mid 1910s the M & S circuit acquired the Waco and remodeled it into a 600-seat house.
In 1909, the New York Sun reported about the following about moviegoing in this section of Rivington Street:
At one point of Rivington Street, three brightly lighted fronts blink at each other at such close quarters that it seems as if the spectator could not be quite sure exactly which house he was getting into; but the neighboring six square blocks with their 50,000 population keeps the managers far from starving. One of these, who smiles out of the box office window at 118 Rivington [the WACO Theater], says that his patronage is entirely local, confined almost within two or three blocks. â€œWe play to our trade,â€ he says. â€œYou will find it the same way all over town. We have here the same people day after day, and we find out what they want and give it to them.â€ The most elaborately produced Shakespearean plays donâ€™t appeal much to them; they donâ€™t understand them. Neither does the broad comedy that they like over in Fourteenth Street. What our patrons like most is sentiment and emotionalism that appeals to their better nature. Grown men come in here and watch some play with tears running down their faces.â€
Charles Steiner who ran the Bijou Theater died in June 1946 (Obituary New York Times, 29 June 1946). The theater was probably renamed just after his death. One of his son-in-laws managed the theater for a few years.
A brief note on the architects: Lorenz F.J. Weiher was responsible for the 1917 renovation.
Warren, you’re right there is little doubt that the S is of Louis Schneider — not of Schwartz who was also involved in the larger M & S circuit via the SWS (Charles Steiner, Hyman Weisner & Jacob Schwartz). Initially, SWS ran the Metropolitan according to the incorporation documents. It was merged into the Allwon Theaters group in 1922.
The M is from Elias Mayer I think. His name pops up everywhere in the legal documents. Mayer and Schneider operated from the same office in Brooklyn. I have been trying to solve the puzzle of the M & S network but without much success. It was a powerful syndicate in Jewish neighborhoods. I’d love to know who really was the central figure. Charles Steiner did much of the work but the money went elsewhere (I met his grandson). Any information on Louis Schneider?
Other persons that were heavily involved in the network: Jacob Borodkin, Max Shapiro, Harry Blinderman, David Rosenzweig.
Abraham Cahan — the famous Yiddish newspaper editor and novelist — made his first public speech at the Golden Rule Hall in 1882.
Steiner started his career at 133 Essex Street in March 1908. He converted his father’s livery stable into a 250-seat nickelodeon, which he initially ran with Alfred Weiss. In 1910, he also rented the adjacent building (135 Essex) to create the possibility to enlarge his movie theater. In 1914 both buildings were demolished to give way to a brand-new 600-seat theater which was designed by the architect Lorenz F.J. Weiher. The Palace Theater was part of the M & S Circuit.
After the theater’s shutdown the building became a restaurant: the famous Bernstein-on-Essex – the first and more many years only kosher Chinese in New York City.
Lorenz F.J. Weiher also designed the Palace Theater (133-135 Essex Street), the Clinton Theater and the 1917 Sunshine Theater on East Houston (listed Sunshine Cinema). Like the New 14th Street Theater, all three were part of the M & S Circuit.
The address of his office was 271 West 125 Street.
In the mid 1910s Weiher’s main competitor on the Lower East Side was architect Louis Sheinart.
Louis Sheinart also designed the American Movies Theater for Charles Steiner. It seems that he closely collaborated with both Steiner and real estate developer Louis Minsky during the mid 1910s. It may well be that he designed the National Theater on East Houston street, a large 2000-seat Yiddish legitimate playhouse that opened in September 1912 The opening was covered by the New York Times (9/25) but the name of the architect is not mentioned.
Are their any records or photographs in your family?
The architect of this theater is Louis Sheinart.
The Waco (World Amusement Company) Theater was opposite the Golden Rule Theater. It opened in 1908. The right address is 118-120 Rivington Street.
A few years ago, when the building was for rent, I tried to arrange a visit. Unfortunately, I was too late. The real estate agent told me that the building had just been leased to a theatrical company and would be used for rehearsals.
There was a New 14th Street Theater located at 235-237 E 14th Street. It was built in 1915 and operated by the SWS chain, which also ran the Sunshine Theater and the American Movies Theater.
I witnessed the destruction of the building when I was in NYC in 2002 (or 2003?). For many years it was a furniture and mattress outlet. The floor was slightly sloped and one could still see the projection room. I have photograph somewhere. I don’t think that it had more than 600 seats.
There were many ads for the American Movies Theater in the Jewish Daily Forward during the 1910s (mostly in Yiddish). The emphasis in the opening ads was on the safety of the building, the comfort of the seats, the coolness of the open air performances. By stressing these modern-day, â€œAmericanâ€ conveniences, Steiner sought to lure customers away from the old-style storefront nickelodeons and assured his patrons that an accident like the one that had happened at the Houston Hippodrome in 1913 (see listing Sunshine Cinema) would not be possible in his new movie theater. Considering the theaterâ€™s name, we would expect that it featured primarily American films. So it did, but Steiner also showed foreign films and he frequently promoted titles dealing with Jewish subject matter.
The American Movies Theater was built in 1914. The opening was announced in the Jewish Daily Forward of 11 April 1914:
The American Movies, the new $70,000 theater on 238-240 East Third Street, between Avenue B and C opens today. It is positively the most beautiful, richest theater on the East Side. Never has there been such a building, such a show on the East Side. Today this beautiful temple will open its doors. It will present the latest and best five and six real features, and a concert will be given at each show, by an orchestra that consist only of artists. One of the interesting characteristics of this theater is that all seats are downstairs, near an exit. In this model theater there is no balcony. Another feature of this theater is that the roof is constructed is such a way that it can be opened and the theater becomes an open air theater in which it will be a pleasure to be during warm nights. The theater is owned by the Interborough Theatrical Company and run by Mr. Charles Steiner, who has gained a reputation on the East Side of being a very successful theater man.
In 1922, the theater at 235 Avenue A was known as the East Side Beauty Theater.